The path to war: Exploring a second-level agenda-building analysis examining the relationship among the media, the public and the president

Shahira S. Fahmy, Wayne Wanta, Thomas J. Johnson, Juyan Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Scopus citations


This study combines both the agenda-building and the second-level agenda approaches. It proposes an expansion of agenda-building research by examining the interaction among the president, the media and the public for an event that was not considered an existing 'real-world' condition. Specifically, this study uses former President Bush's five most prominent rationales for invading Iraq to explore the three-way reciprocal relationship among the media, the public and the president on attributes related to the pre-emptive strike on Iraq. The study found evidence of the information subsidies approach as Bush influenced media coverage of the Iraq War. The research also found more evidence of a linear model of agenda-building. The media and presidential agenda had only a limited influence on public concern about the war. Public concern influenced how much space the president devoted to the five issues on his Iraq War agenda and the press also had some limited influence on the issues stressed by the former president.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)322-342
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Communication Gazette
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2011



  • Axis of Evil
  • Saddam Hussein
  • US war coverage
  • attribute agenda
  • pre-emptive war on Iraq
  • presidential speeches
  • public opinion
  • rationales for war
  • second-level agenda building
  • weapons of mass destruction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science

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